Bento This!

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Lately, there’s been great interest in bento boxes in my (admittedly small but super fantastic) social circle. My dear friend the Lady Otter has put together some positively breathtaking lunches for herself.

Here’s a quick bento primer.

So, what’s a bento and why do you want one?
A bento box is a traditional Japanese lunchbox. It usually has a few little compartments to separate different parts of your meal. Most are between one and three stacks high.

Bentos are compact. You can stuff them with all manners of different things. They’re nicer to eat out of than a regular old tupperware. They make making your lunch fun.

What goes into one?
If you’re making a bento by the book, you pack it with a protein (meat, chicken, or fish), a starch (usually rice), and some kind of veggie matter. Great care and consideration is usually taken with the shapes of the food—and how they’re arranged. (There are rice molds, different shaped veggie cutters…more on all that some other time. There’s a whole Bento World out there.)

Honestly, though? Fill it with things you like.

This is one of my favorite topics, but I’ll keep it simple for today. Here are some of the neatest bento boxes I’ve seen online. (After all, if you’re going to pack yourself a bento every day, you need to have a proper bento box.)

Most bento boxes will come with a belly band to keep them closed. Many are not microwave safe, or only partially so (as in, you can only nuke the little containers inside the box, not the box itself), so check the details before you order.

The Floral Bento Box is available from the Asian Art Mall for $24.95 and comes with a belly band to keep your bento safely closed while you travel. It’s 2-tier and measures 5.25″x3.25″.

This is a 2-tier Sushi Box, for those of you who want a bento with a handle. Get yours from the Pearl River Mart in New York for $12.50.

Think of it as a bento for two. (Picnic, anyone?) The Pearl Butterfly Three Layer Lacquer Box is much larger than a normal bento, measuring 7 5/8″ long x 7 5/8″ wide x 6 3/4″ high.

It’s beautiful, but doesn’t include a band, so you’ll want to be careful if you’re toting it around. Available from Mrs. Lin’s Kitchen for $28.95, it also comes in the red and black Crane, Fan, and Blossom design. There’s also a very similar Black Fan design available from Buy 4 Asian Life for $13.99.

This is the Hakoya Black & Red Bento from for $19.95.

The Jyubako Lunch/Hors d’oeuvres 2-Tiered box is slightly larger than most bento at� 8 1/2″ long x 8 1/2″ wide x 4 1/2″ high. Buy yours from Ichiban Kan for $20. also sells this rather manly Hakoya Grey Silver Zen Bento Box for $13.95.

For a different shape, try the 2-tier Plum Blossom bento sold by From Japan with Love. It’s 7.9″ long x 3″ wide x 3″ high and costs $39.50.

Bentos for kids (whether you’re actually 8-years-old, or just like to pretend sometimes)

This 2-tier Totoro bento is available online from JBox for $24.95. It measures 6.5″ long x 3″ wide x 3.25″ high. (Warning: JBox has a lot of great Japanese goods, including some more adult stuff.) If you’re not sure what Totoro is, he’s a giant Japanese forest spirit and star of Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful movie My Neighbor Totoro.

The 2-tier Shinzi Katoh Happy Good Luck Onigiri Bento Lunch Box says “Happy” on one side and “Good Luck” on the other. It’s 4.5″ long x 3.5″W wide x 4″ high and is available from Heliotrope Home for $18. Like this bento? Heliotrope Home sells a bunch of boxes with Shinzi Katoh’s designs.

The Animals in the Forest bento also comes from the happy folks at With Love from Japan. It’s only $5.95. I can’t find dimensions for this one, but wanted to list it because I liked it so much. I’m guessing it’s on the small size, since it’s so inexpensive.

Happy munching!
That’s it for now. Much more on bentos and all the strange and wonderful things you can do with your food soon.

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie works as an advertising copywriter in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.


  1. Hello Jessie, This post is really worked for me 'coz I was wondering the full meaning of 'bento lunches'. And omg! I just fell in love with the floral bento box, and plum blossom one right now! Cheers! Banu
  2. Thanks, Banu! Yeah, the plum blossom one kind of has me hooked. I think I might need to order one. If you want the full scoop on the history of bento boxes, there's a good article here: +The Hungry Mouse
  3. I actually have something VERY similar to "The Pearl Butterfly Three Layer Lacquer Box". I never knew what it was!! My Nana had her sewing stuff in it.. and now I keep my makeup in it. Interesting..
  4. i had the hakoya except it was blue and purple. i lost it and can't find another one the same color.(in my city or that isn't ridiculous shipping costs) do you know where i can get one? without ridiculous shipping preferably?
    • Hey Hannah, I did some poking around online for you, and couldn't come up with a Hakoya that was blue and purple. :/ I wonder if they don't make 'em in that combo anymore. The only other thought I had was to try eBay. That said, I'm not sure I love the idea of a second-hand bento box. Might be able to find one still in the box, though. Good luck to you. Sorry I couldn't be of more help. Cheers! +Jessie